Tuesday, June 22, 2021

County employees to return to offices

BELLEFONTE — With COVID numbers down, Centre County government is ready to bring employees who have been working remotely back to county offices on June 28. These offices are scheduled to open to the public on July 6.

Currently, employees who are able to work remotely are on a rotational schedule, alternating days in the office. Since the pandemic began, county workers have either been on a full remote status or on a rotational schedule. Some county workers, such as correctional officers, have had to report in person.

“Over the last several weeks we have seen the number of COVID-19 cases community wide and among our own workforce decline. Hospitalizations have declined and of course at the same time, we have seen more people take advantage of being vaccinated,” said county administrator Margaret Gray during a May 25 board meeting.

The county will also return to in-person meetings on July 6, moving away from video conferences.

County workers will continue to operate on a rotational schedule until June 28, which Gray said will allow them to get vaccinated and department heads “to work with staff to make sure everyone feels comfortable doing as much distancing as possible and allow employees to make arrangement should they have concerns at home around childcare or elder care or something along those lines.”

The initial recommendation was to have workers return to office on July 5 and offices to open to the public in August, but commissioner Dershem said, “That’s way too late. I think we need to open up the building before that. I think there is a lot of folks that find it very inconvenient to do business the way we are doing it. If there are actually people in the office, I think we should be able to go back to work as normal.”

Commissioner Pipe suggested moving the return to work day to June 28 and waiting a week after workers come back to the office before opening doors to the public.

“Give our staff a week to adjust, I think that might make things a little bit smoother,” said Pipe.

“I know that some other municipal governments have been putting in CDC guidance and are opening their doors sooner. But I think with our county government, we have many more departments, I think it just makes sense to have time to do so … I think the big thing would be to give our staff a little bit of adjustment time before coming back in.”

Gray suggested that all members of the community should follow CDC guidance when entering the county buildings.

“And CDC guidance will most likely change between now and then, most likely, as we see vaccination numbers going forward, and as the Pennsylvania Department of Health adjusts their guidance as well, it is going to change between now and then. But from my standpoint it would be whatever the CDC is suggested as guidance, we would want to implement,” said Pipe.

Higgins said department heads should be flexible, allowing some county workers the option to work remotely, partially.

The county is working on a work-from-home policy that will soon be presented to the commissioner for approval, so it was not needed to be included in the motion.